A Subjunctive Story, II

salvēte, amīcī, et grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus! As promised, here’s the rather silly and violent story that we might use in the Tres Columnae  if we do, in fact, introduce the modus optātīvus (that is, independent subjunctives like the “volitive,” the “hortatory,”  and the “jussive”)  early in Cursus Primus.

As I mentioned yesterday, this sequence takes place while Valerius and his family are in Rome (or Milan) for the races (and the marriage arrangements for their daughter Valeria). As a Tres Columnae learner, you would be familiar with

  • All cases of nouns, except possibly the dative;
  • Present indicative verbs (all persons and numbers), active and deponent;
  • Present active infinitives;
  • Imperatives; and
  • The idea that adjectives (and other “describing words” like demonstratives) behave rather like nouns.

You would not yet have been formally exposed to non-present verb tenses.  Our faithful reader Euthyphro, in a recent comment, suggested that we introduce subjunctives “as soon as possible,” but felt that students needed to be exposed to past, present, and future time expressions first.  I respectfully disagree.  Linguistically, the future tense is a relatively late development (a recent discussion on the Latinteach listserv noted that this late development is responsible for the wild diversity of future tense markers in Latin); I think it makes sense to deal with the subjunctive, as the linguistically older form, first, just as we’ll be dealing with deponents (the linguistically older form) before passives.  As for the various Latin past tenses, they relate to a discussion of verbal aspect that I’m planning for next week.  And yes, there will be at least one sample story (maybe more) during that discussion. 🙂

Returning to our sample story, you may find yourself thinking of folks you know as you read this, especially if you know any really hard-core sports fans with violent tendencies. And if you do, you may want to keep them far away from both wine-cups and blood-sausage … or beer and hotdogs, if your sports fan friends are twenty-first century Americans! I don’t want anyone to get hurt! 🙂

Why, you ask? You’ll see in a moment.  But keep in mind that

  • Valerius is currently in negotiations with Quartus Vipsanius, a business associate, to make final arrangements for the marriage of his daughter Valeria (Lucius’ big sister) to Quartus Vipsanius’ son;
  • The whole family (including Valerius’ brother-in-law Caelius and his unpleasant son Cnaeus) has gone to visit the Vipsanii, who live somewhere with a chariot track;
  • Valerius and Caelius, like many friends and family members today, have a “friendly” rivalry and cheer for different factiōnēs;
  • Valeria and Vipsanius know about the “hidden” purpose of the trip, but the younger children do not; and
  • Lucius brought along his young friend Caius, who has never been to a race before.

Now consider this story, and imagine the illustrations and audio (and realize what fun this story would be for some participants to make into a video):

Quārtus Vipsānius, pater Vipsāniī, Circum intrat et sēdem invenit. Valerius et Caelia quoque intrant et sedent. Vipsānius haesitat. “nōnne Valeria pulchra et lepida est?” sēcum putat. “utinam pater cōnūbia faciat! utinam Valeriam in mātrimōnium dūcam!” Valeria quoque haesitat. “quam benignus est Vipsānius! nōnne iuvenis maximae calliditātis est? utinam pater cōnūbia faciat! utinam Valerius mē in mātrimōnium dūcat!”

Quārtus Vipsānius fīlium spectat et rīdet. “ecce, mī amīce!” inquit. “nōnne fīlia tua fīlium meum dēlectat?”

Valerius quoque rīdet. “certē, mī amīce! fortasse nōs decet dē dōte hodiē loquī.”

“fortasse, mī Valerī,” respondet Quārtus Vipsānius. “nunc tamen nōs decet currūs et aurīgās spectāre.”

omnēs in sēdibus sedent, quod aurīgae et currūs iam Circum intrant. spectātōrēs vehementer plaudunt et aurīgās incitant. “utinam vincant Rubrī!” exclāmant multī. “utinam vincant Albī!” exclāmant aliī.

“quem incitāre vīs, mī Cāī?” Lūcius amīcum rogat. “pater meus semper Rubrōs incitat, ille avunculus meus tamen Albōs. utinam inter sē cōnsentiant! utinam nē dissentiant! utinam nē vituperētur et lacrimētur!”

Cāius nihil respondet. “quam mīrābilis est Circus!” sēcum loquitur. “quanta multitūdō! quam callidī sunt aurīgae! quam fortēs equī! utinam multōs lūdōs tōtam per vītam videam!”

subitō omnēs spectātōrēs vehementer exclāmant. “mappa cadit! carcerēs aperiuntur!” equī celeriter currunt, et aurīgae equōs vehementer incitant.

Valerius, “ō Caelium stultissimum! num iam istōs Albōs incitās? quot denāriōrum prō victōriā?”

Caelius, “mī dulcissime, mī stultissime,” respondet, “num iam istōs Rubrōs incitās? trīgintā!”

spectātor proximus multum vīnum ē pōculo bibit et ebrius clāmat, “quid?  trigintā?  quadrāgintā, quod Albī semper victōrēs sunt, et tū es stultus.”

tum alius spectātor, quī vīnum bibit et botulum maximum ēst, quoque exclāmat, “Clōdī, mī asine stultissime! num pauper es?  dūcentī, quod Albī Rubrōs vincere nōn possunt!”

tum ille spectātor prīmus, Clōdius nōmine, ēbrius surgit et “num– num mē asinum appellās, Iūlī tū asine?” exclāmat.  tum botulum cum pane in spectātōrem Iūlium conicit. Iūlius attonitus et īrātus respondet, “num botulum in mē inicis?  utinam tē cum uxōre tuā in stabulō retineam, asinissime! et duōs asinōs cum equīs habeam!” et Iūlius pōculum vīnī in Clōdium conicit.

“pugnātur! pugnātur!” exclāmant spectātōrēs. Clōdius ē sēde surgit et Iūlium vehementer pulsat. Iūlius alium pōculum rapit et pōculō Clōdium verberat. Clōdius botulum alium rapit et botulō Iūlium iterum et iterum percutit. spectātōrēs “heus!” exclāmant. “utinam aurīgae tāle spectāculum praebeant! heus! aurīgae! cūr nōn certātis?”

Valeria “quid pugnae?” rogat. Vipsānius quoque, “an pugnātur?” attonitus rogat.  tum “nōlī timēre, mea Valeria, tē servāre possum,” susurrat ille.

Prīma et Secunda inter sē susurrant, “ecce Valeria! nōnne illum Vipsānium amat?” Caelia cum Domitiā, uxōre Vipsāniī, susurrat et rīdet. “nōnne nūptiās parāre dēbēmus?” Quārtus Vipsānius “mī Valerī,” inquit, “nōnne dē dōte pauca verba loquī nōs oportet? fortasse tria –”

subitō Iūlius et Clōdius in Quārtum Vipsānium incidunt. “sceleste!” exclāmant, “cūr ades? cūr nōs pugnāre prohibēs?”

Quārtus Vipsānius attonitus, “quid dīcitis?” exclāmat. “num ego vōs pugnāre prohibeō? nōnne vōs in mē iam inciditis? cūr mē vituperātis, asinī ēbriī et stultissimī?”

illī “tacē, asine, nōlī nōs vituperāre!” exclāmant. tum Iūlius pōculō, Clōdius botulō Quārtum Vipsānium miserrimum identidem verberant. tandem aliī spectātōrēs illōs comprehendunt et ē Circō ēiciunt.

Cāius, “vae! vae! heu spectātōrēs! utinam nē pugnent! aurīgās vidēre nōn possum!” exclāmat. Lūcius, “heus!” exclāmat, “heu patrem et avunculum! utinam nē ab eīs dissentiātur!” Cnaeus tamen, “eugepae!” sēcum loquitur. “quam rīdiculī sunt spectātōrēs, et quam mē dēlectat pugna! utinam multās pugnās tālēs per tōtam vītam videam!”

quid respondētis, amīcissimī?

  • It’s a silly and violent story, isn’t it? 🙂 But if you’ve ever been to a hard-fought athletic contest, you’ve probably seen its contemporary equivalent. Fortunately, today, there are security guards available.
  • What do you think of the relationship (blossoming as it is) between Vipsanius and Valeria? Of course, we know so little about how Romans felt about each other before (and during) marriage. But it doesn’t seem too big of a stretch to imagine that young teenagers might have a bit of a crush on each other … especially when they know they may be stuck with each other for life!
  • What do you think of the silly boys … and the silly spectators?
  • And of all the things for poor Quartus Vipsanius to endure … beaten with a blood-sausage and a wine-cup!  And for what?! 🙂
  • On another level, what do you think of the incorporation of the optātīvus? And of the overall reading level of the story? Does it “fit” properly at this place in the Tres Columnae storyline, or should we save the optātīvus (along with the coniūnctīvus and the whole idea of subjunctives) for later as Latin textbooks “usually” do?

Tune in next time for a summary of your responses. And then we’ll consider the vexed question of non-present-tense verbs. To what extent might a focus on verbal aspect be helpful here, as compared with the “traditional” (or at least nineteenth-century) focus on “all those verb tenses”? And in the meantime, please keep those comments and emails coming.

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Interesting project! For now, just some vowel quantities:

    Valĕrius, -a
    ŭtinam(!)
    mātrimōnium
    ēbrius
    pānis
    prŏhibeō

    Also, I think you should write Gnaeus and Gāius with the letter G. The abbreviations are traditionally C. and Cn., but when writing the names out, I see no reason to not use G.

  2. Johan,
    Grātiās tibi maximās! I’ll be glad to make the corrections, most of which are typographical errors. It’s nice to know that there’s someone out there who both knows and cares about details of vowel quantity.
    As for Gāius and Gnaeus, you’ll find that their families are a bit old-fashioned and have deliberately chosen the archaic spelling. Were it not so, I’d gladly conform them to the more typical spelling. Thanks again for your interest in the project, and I look forward to hearing from you again.

  3. […] incident in the Circus, when Vipsānius’ poor father is attacked by two drunk race fans) in this blog post from February, but we don’t yet know what happened right before that … or right after. intereā, […]


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